The Cats Whisker




Radio – It’s news, it’s advertisements, it’s music, it’s company, it’s fun but most of all it is FACTUAL.




Without becoming a dreary trip down memory lane, lets go back to the early EARLY days and check out some activities circa 1900 - 1930.


1905 The Wireless Telegraphy Act passed and the Marconi Company established a 2way station at Queenscliffe in Victoria.


1906 In Sydney C.P.Bartholomew set up an experimental station at Mossman.


1910 Our WIA formed, one of their first activities, to organise a wireless contact between two trains travelling at over 40mph.  Ernest Fisk arrived from England clutching patents from both Marconi and Teleffunken Mr Fisk later established an iconic Auzzie Company AWA and later still was knighted for his work.


From 1910 on radio was alive – with crackles and snaps… but no pops!

Officially those Radio Experimenters of the era were not allowed to transmit music, but one Charles Maclurcan of Strathfield Sydney graduated from spark and on his station 2CM Sunday afternoon’s he cranked out 2 hours of gramophone records


Up in Queensland 3 ‘hams’ were rigorously at work, David Garland was first there to send a spark some 30 miles. 


1914 saw Queensland’s first call signs issued. XQA and XQM to Marcus Brims and Andy Couper in Mareeba.


Syd Colville XQF OF South Brisbane transmitted the first voice, be it just 500 yards.

Those 500 yards was soon stretched to 500 miles! North, South and to ships at sea, from the WIA stations at the YMCA and Fire station in Ann Street Brisbane.


The first use of wireless in Australia for political reasons was by Billy Hughes the Prime Minister nick named “The Little Digger”, was fascinated by radio and participated in a test to his homeland from Wales in the UK. Ernest Fisk picked this transmission up in Sydney and to this day an obelisk marks the spot in that Sydney suburb, Wahroonga.


192/21 saw an official Government sponsored demonstration of wireless. Cats Whiskers were tweaked and in May of ’21 the Victorian Division of the WIA were involved in a concert program of gramophone selections plus a Shakespearian Recitation transmitted from the Institutes HQ in Little Collins Street. The engineering transmission was by Lionel Hooke and reproduced via a 7-stage amplifier augmented by a loud speaking device at Prahan.


Those early 20’s saw the likes of 3DP in Hawthorne. 3SW Kew, Max Howdens 3BQ and in Perth 6AG W.E. Coxon “on the air”.

Any look at Australian Radio, no matter how brief can not overlook our

“Pedal Power”.


A chap with the call sign 8AC, an early WIA member, set up the first Flying Doctor Wireless Station, this at Cloncurry in 1928, his name? The Reverend John Flynn.


Early in the 20’s against best possible advice, John Flynn 8AC assisted by 5AX Alf Traeger, successfully designed and built the Pedal Wireless, unique in the world at that time, and remains so to this day.


Raconteurs claim that by chance Alf, John and “Harry” 4HK arrived in Cloncurry on Melbourne Cup Day. They set up and showed their new fangled device outside a pub! As a Cloncurry horse was running that year the locals asked if by radio they could find out the winner!

Yes, against all odds they did just that! AND THE GOOD Reverend John Flynn knew God was on side with his venture to establish a “Radio Controlled flying Doctor Service” through the outback.


These early days on the dial saw Ham Station DJ’s playing music alongside the official A & B class licences. This did cause conflicts between private transmitting, receiver listening and wireless commercial interests


When it became obvious that Medium Wave experimenting hams must give way to Commercial and ABC type transmissions, B class station 4BC in Brisbane invited these “200 meter men” into their studios for a “last hoorah”.

With Hams being made to “Give Way” a deal of instability sprung up within
the ranks of Australian experimenters between 1927 and 1937.
An alternative society to the WIA initially known as the Queensland Radio Transmitters League began in 1927 and renamed the Australian Radio Transmitters League, was primarily concerned about the undue influence of these commercial interests at the expense of private experimenters.
The majority of experimenters in Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria stood
by the WIA though the ARTL had also been established in those states.
With good will and expressions of common purpose during six months of
negotiations in 1929, most state ARTLs merged with the WIA, the last merger was
in Western Australia in 1932.


Radio – Always has been always will be The Cats Whisker IS all things to all people. You just have to turn it on!


Be it ABC for information

SBS bringing a touch of home to immigrants

Community serving a small local area,

Narrowcast, the specialty stations such as Travel advisories, Vacation stations and Race Broadcasters or…

Commercials for pop music, news and their infamous gotchya calls!










Peter Parker

 brought a new look WIA news to the nations capital in the Mid-90’s

Peter had recently moved to Canberra, so why this new style news?

(i)                              He’d been writing the VK1 notes in AR and

(ii)                            no one else wanted it!


He tongue in cheek blames Richard Jenkins VK1RJ who encouraged him!
They aimed for about 20 minutes of news with around 15-20 items.

There was also an equipment disposals segment.

The weekly bulletin was well-accepted locally and interstate - remember this was at the time when some larger WIA state divisions either had internal problems (that spilled out on the broadcast) and/or couldn't get the volunteers to run weekly broadcasts.

Having about 10% of the population of a larger city but a bulletin hungry for content meant they had to be creative with news gathering. Luckily electronic communication such as packet radio meant they could make use of material between sister broadcasts, source material from elsewhere and follow up leads from amateurs doing interesting things.

In exchange, Peter put the VK1 bulletin out on packet and the internet.

Bear in mind that most people then had either 1200 baud (packet) or 28.8k (dial-up internet) so all content was text, based on the script (sound recordings and video content came in the 2000s).

The the bulletin was a live read, so despite the delivery sometimes being unrefined, it added immediacy and shortened lead times.

However Peter says “I'd have been lost without the prepared script!”

To sum up, the VK1WI broadcast of the mid 90’s filled a need, successfully brought local amateurs together, provided a focal point for local activity and boosted the profile of the VK1 Division.



1937 First mention we've come across relating to weekly broadcasts of   information from the WIAQ ... A plea to restart the service.

1947 VK4HA Harry Angel unofficial news station using call VK4WI

1960 VK4OL Alf (1960 to 1971) He does complete news broadcast and getting of the news and putting it out on all bands alone with no repeaters. Daughter Beverley typing up the news as it came in even whilst on air and Merl the XYL providing the goodies and tea for the many visitors we had to vk4wia.  Saturday night after work at the State Theatre Alf VK4OL would take the broadcast from the Voice of America with their segment on Amateur Radio and with the permission of the USA Embassy here would rebroadcast it along with VK4WIA

1992 April 19th Peter Jones, VK4YAC, News Editor and Reader.  Peters Occupation was, News Reader, Reporter with commercial giant 4KQ Rebroadcaster is Jack Gayton

1995 9am Divisional news renamed QNEWS VK4BB B) aker B) aker Graham Kemp reader editor Production of 30mt news at Radio Station 4TAB QNEWS also put out in regular Packet form, the first division to do so on a weekly basis.


April 1996 and 99fm a community FM'er on the Redcliffe Peninsular gives a 15mt block of time at 2pm each 2nd Wed of month to WIAQ for a special program for the non-ham. After all these years Ham Radio was back on the broadcast band! Produced monthly by Graham VK4BB.

60 second ham radio stories are still broadcast (as of May 2010) in the Rockhampton area on local community radio   



NewsWest the VK6 News Service under the helm of VK6KAD has sourced some magic old recordings of their news, their sample of a 1962 newscast goes some 
55 minutes. Dennis Muldownie VK6KAD has transferred it to mp3 format
And it will be available at their Northern Corridor Radio Group Museum.
Some items covered included
The vk6_setup for news of 1962
OSCAR 1 dies
The first one (setup) shows the heterodyne and other problems in Ancient Mode days,
and one shows the quality achievable in broadcast terms by hams in AM. It also mentions a talk on SSB! 
1962. Yuri Gagarin had orbited the year before, The Yanks were flying 
Mercury with the first orbital ride (John Glenn), Ham Satellites (Oscars) 
were new, and SSB was on it's way in.







Bob Fulton VK7AF and Terry Connor VK7CT were involved.

Terry was a pipe smoker and had the habit of tapping out his pipe as he spoke, so you always listened, expecting this to occur!

Then Tom Allan VK7AL took over and did it on and off for many years. The broadcast in those days often consisted of reading the contents of the Bulletin (not THE Bulleting), but the VK7 monthly news letter, which Tom used to pronounce as the Bullet INN.

Tom Allen VK7AL did the broadcast in 1959 from the WIA meeting rooms in Liverpool St. Tom was a manager at the PMG.



Saw Justin 7TW helping out Brian VK7RR was the editor

Peter VK7PD remembers hearing it on 2m AM





The 70’s saw the formation of the Southern, Northern and North West Branches of the WIA Tasmanian Division.

Broadcasts alternated between Hobart, Launceston and Burnie each week.

Peter VK7PD recollects that during the time the broadcast originated in Launceston – Peter VK7PF increased the frequency of the repeater ident tone outside the bandpass of an SSB receiver so it didn’t get passed through to the SSB rebroadcasting.  There was use of ABC facilities to create and edit the broadcast.  hill and the UHF link maintained between the repeaters.



Barry Fraser VK7FR who was ABC TV newsreader became involved in the early 1980’s through until 1985 when Barry retired and moved to the NW Coast.

The broadcast would be recorded on Saturday night at the ABC Studios onto reel-to-reel tape, editing in live crosses and reports. In those days we would receive a weekly cassette tape of federal WIA news.




In 2004 the VK7 WIA Broadcast became the VK7 Regional News Broadcast and editor is still Justin Giles-Clark VK7TW. Newsreaders are: Justin VK7TW, Ian VK7IR, John VK7JK, Barry VK7RS and Mike VK7FB.



That’s a little of what should definitely be a project for all we news hounds to collate and get into history OUR history




Mainstream Radio history also is fragmented, 3 or 4 dozen books contain the odd gem worth recalling.



Things like how in 1940 Australian Radio, both National and Commercial had a compulsory news service aired at 7pm each night, this service supplied by the Governments Department of Information!



The head of this Government Department? One Keith Murdock (Father of Rupert). This DOI head controlled Film Press and Radio.


This compulsory service was to last just a few months. Superseded by the commercial stations replaying BBC news and some of the ABC Networked news.


World War Two saw not only our Ham Radio licences revoked, four commercial stations ‘lost’ their licences during that period.


2HD Newcastle, 4AT Atherton, 5AU Port Augusta and 5KA Adelaide. These licences were withdrawn as they were all deemed controlled by the Jehovah’s Witness Church.

4AT in particular caused problems in the garrison city of Townsville with it’s pacifist outlook and in Adelaide the morning announcer reported on a well known local identity ‘boarding his mine sweeper”.


Geelong’s 3GL had to cease mid-sentence during a description of a local bushfire as the censor figured enemy planes my pick up the transmission zero in on the smoke

And attack Geelong! Actually for many year weather was NOT allowed to be mentioned.



In VK6 Ed Churchward who subsequently spent more than 40 years as a professional broadcaster was involved in an emergency combined studio set up in a secret underground suburban location, which was still secret in 1999. A spare ‘hidden’ transmitter was built in a private home in the nearby hills.



Curiously when we look back on it, commercial radio played a relatively insignificant role in war reporting. Whereas the ABC had its men in the field, the commercials seemed to see their “war effort” more in entertainment.






Australia, you’ve got talent, dancing with the stars, Australian Idol can all trace their roots back to radio’s “Australian Amateur Hour”. From serials to stunts from songs to sound effects Auzzie radio had it all…. Even Australia’s most wanted was a radio before TV first.


1952 and 2SM Sydney rebroadcast an enactment of a murder victims last moments alive. Shirley Butler was known to have travelled on a particular tram moments before being found dead. Within 30 minutes of this dramatisation going to air EVERYONE who had been on that tram came forwarded, all spoke of who they were with who they had seen etc. That is all bar ONE… who ended up being apprehended and confessing to the murder – THE POWER OF WIRELESS.



One program aired in Sydney was a program on ESP.

The host, a Mr Piddington was an ex Changi POW where he is said to have perfected his craft.   He put Howard Craven another announcer on a flying boat circling Sydney, another announcer went down Pitt Street to Angus and Robertson’s bookstore, selected a book and a third announcer picked a line from the book, wrote it down and placed it in a locked safe. Via Piddington and Radio and ESP they successfully thought transferred the line and book title to Craven on board the flying boat!





Speaking of smoke, the kids serial GUNSMOKE and many Home Grown radio serials involving American Accents were redone in a quasi yank accent, one that was accepted by listeners in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and FIJI. Australian radio serials were sold into more countries by changing accents and words to a more generic version!





The radio station is a dangerous place to be or be involved with on April One!


In 1987 4LM Mt Isa put a fake news bulletin to air reporting on how (then) Premier Joe Bjelke-Petersen was taking over as Prime Minister after some constitutionally sound but politically unlikely events. All went well until one woman rang in saying her 72-year-old Dad was in the shed with his shotgun and was threatening to ‘blow his brains out’! That’s where the stunt ended!


This one, from across the pond admittedly is a “beauty”. Pirate Station Radio Hauraki turned a Sunday into a Monday. In those days in ZL land there was neither advertising on a Sunday nor news. So when Auklanders woke that morning to adverts, news, traffic they got up and headed out to work… to be confronted with strangely quiet freeways, or stood at deserted railway stations!!!  All in good fun.


I personally was involved in a prank in Brisbane, as manager of 4BK who’s breakfast host “Waynee Poo Roberts” was the 70-80’s most irreverent announcer, I voiced a disclaimer played after his shift for the rest of the morning. This disclaimer was apologising for Wayne’s conduct that morning. That it wouldn’t happen again, and a massive apology.


We took lots of calls at the station agreeing on “how bad that thing he did this morning was” BUT he had done NOTHING it was a straight show….



So here we are 100 years plus in 20 minutes! A bit hard to cram it all in, we will be trying to compile this along with the material people like Peter Parker, Justin, Dennis etc have supplied into a ‘rewind’ page on the web….  As we say in wireless  ‘stay tuned’.



I started this segment with a recording of Marconi inventing radio, no mean feat! HiHi.. BUT I can go back even further… lets go back some 2010 YEARS AND A DAY!!!